NEW YORK -- Hortense Gabel, 77, a judge and social reformer whose reputation was tarnished when her daughter claimed she pulled strings to get her a job with Bess Myerson's office, died Dec. 7 at her home in Manhattan. She had suffered several strokes.
A leader in the fight against racial discrimination in housing after World War II, Mrs. Gabel was a justice of New York's State Supreme Court, the state's general trial court, from 1976 until 1987.
In 1988 a federal jury acquitted her of charges that she secured a job for her daughter, Sukhreet, with Myerson, the city's cultural affairs commissioner, by ruling in favor of Myerson's male companion in a divorce case.
The charges were based on a report commissioned by then-Mayor Edward Koch. The report concluded that in 1983 Myerson, Koch's friend and political ally, swayed the judge to rule favorably for Carl Capasso.
In exchange, the report asserted, Myerson hired Sukhreet Gabel for a $19,000-a-year job.
Capasso had sued his estranged wife for divorce, and Mrs. Gabel was deciding child support and alimony payments. Mrs. Gabel insisted she knew nothing of Myerson's relationship with Capasso.
Sukhreet Gabel was a key witness against her mother, who was tried along with Myerson and Capasso. She recorded telephone calls for the prosecutors and gave them bags full of documents from her mother's files.
Hortense Wittstein grew up in the Bronx. A graduate of Hunter College and Columbia University Law School, she married Milton Gabel, a dentist, in 1944.
In 1986, she was named "judge of the year" by the National Association of Women Judges, an organization she helped found.
Mrs. Gabel stepped down from the bench in 1987, citing health problems. She was indicted later that year, and never returned to work after her trial.
Milton Gabel died earlier this year. Besides Sukhreet, Mrs. Gabel is survived by a sister.